Busy Little… Spider?

This is Charlotte. Charlotte is a garden spider (Argiope aurantia) who annually makes our home her home. Though of course it isn’t the same spider year to year, we always call her Charlotte. She used to always make her web on or beside the back porch, but she has moved to a sunny spot in a corner over the past couple of years.

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Each year, female garden spiders lay eggs, which they enclose in durable webbing sacs to protect them through the winter. Then, in the spring, these eggs hatch, and tiny spider hatchlings come out to make their own webs or fly away on bits of thread to find new homes – just like at the end of Charlotte’s Web.

Normally, you see one big brown egg sac on Charlotte’s web every fall. This year she’s been especially busy, however. Not one, not two, but three egg sacs adorn Charlotte’s web. We may have a whole family of Charlottes next spring!

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Snow Days

Over the past week some much-publicized snow storms have blown across the country, bringing thick blankets of fluffy white snow to cover the land. Here, we were at the outskirts of the storms coming across Kentucky and Tennessee, so we missed the majority of the snow, but still got enough to leave us snowed in for a couple of days.

Walter, of course, loved having everyone shut up in the house with him for much of the week. He thrives on companionship and, given the choice, would require it at all times, with the possible exception of during his late morning-noontime nap. He was perfectly content to just look out the window; the couple of times he was given the opportunity to get out in the snow, he was actually afraid of it, and turned tail and ran back inside as soon as he got the chance.

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There was certainly plenty to see outside, though. The snow and cold brought out all manner of wildlife. The bird feeders are always popular, but during the snow they were absolutely covered. Though they are less immediately recognizable in their winter plumage, the goldfinches were out in full force. I don’t think I have ever seen so many in any one place at one time. That’s right: all of those round beige splotches in the tree will soon be gloriously dressed in bright yellow.

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Even though it isn’t much snow volume wise, it was enough to make roads icy and close schools. I almost slid down twice in one trip walking the dogs, and Florence actually did slip and fall on her walk. Needless to say, there isn’t a whole lot to do besides stay inside. We’ve perfected the art of relaxing; it’s going to be a shock when the world starts going again.

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Cat Portraits

It is painfully obvious that I have been absent from posting in quite a long while. It is sadly very easy to get caught up in all of the business of life and drop the things that aren’t absolutely essential. However, it seems quite a shame to drop something that I enjoyed as much as I did running my humble little blog here. Therefore, I have returned! Hopefully I will be able to keep things up better in the future.

To atone for my absence, behold, a truly stunning collection of cat portraits.

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Little Tom, the old man of the family, is not usually the biggest fan of having his picture taken, but he submitted to a photography session.

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Walter is the model of the group. He’s photogenic and he knows it, and can always be counted on to show up for a good photo op.

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Here is a moody profile shot of Jake, which his a bit ironic, considering that he is the least moody cat around.

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And Myrtle? Myrtle doesn’t do press appearances.

Bovine Baby Newborn

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On my way home from riding the other day, I saw this brand new baby calf. It obviously hadn’t been in the world long. I didn’t want to disturb the happy family, so I didn’t get a very close picture, but trust me on the newness and adorableness of this little calf! It was still a little wet, and its hair was quite curly!

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We were planning on having a picnic for the Fourth of July, but we soon realized we would have to grill out another day. It poured, and it only just stopped pouring. (It still rained some today, mind, but less than it didn’t.) In a break from the rain, it was dog walking time, so we headed down the driveway with the dogs. On top of the wet grass and puddles, the creek was high and fast and muddy.

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I’m actually pretty surprised that it didn’t get out in the road during the big rain, though I supposed it could have happened at night when I couldn’t tell.

Needless to say, some dog drying was necessary after the walk – one of the few downsides of walking on a rainy day.

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I think the cooler temperatures and fresh air make up for it, though.

Peach and Blue Cheese Salad

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The best salad in the world? Well, it’s up there.

This salad features grilled (yes, grilled!) peaches from the farmers’ market on a bed of lettuce fresh from the garden. The peaches are peeled, cut in half and pitted, with a little olive oil drizzled on them. When they are almost done, add blue cheese to the hollows for the last couple of minutes so that it will melt. Put them on top of a simple salad of lettuce and a little vinegar, then add pecans and chives, and drizzle honey over everything.

It’s a very unique side that set off our steak quite fabulously. Very fresh and summery tasting!

Speaking of summer, today was the first day of fresh corn of the year! It came from the farmers’ market, since ours is far from ready. Cut it off the cob and cook it in a non-stick skillet with a little butter for a simple but delicious side.

ImageWhen corn is fresh it really makes all the difference! Of course this is true for any produce – thank goodness for gardens and farmers’ markets! Check for local markets in your area. You won’t be sorry!

Say Hello to My Little Friend…

…Baby Sparrow, who kept a close eye on me while I pulled weeds near his house.

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He was probably just waiting for his parents to come back with some food for him, but I’d rather believe that we bonded over the course of the day.

What a friendly little fella. He was even willing to pose for the camera!

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